After adult life slapped me hard and left me down in the dumps, I asked my cousins and niece if we could go hiking up Zomba Plateau (timafuna mphepo zina amwene). Zomba Plateau is one of my favourite places in the world and I’ve been up there a whole lot of times, but I always drove and went to the pretty common places (read: Mulunguzi Dam and Ku Chawe Hotel). This time, I wanted something different. I wanted a challenge.
My cousin, Elant, told me of a trail he used before. He said a hike was doable. But because I didn’t want to take such a HUGE risk, we drove and parked the car by the dam. We were going to walk the rest of the way. It seemed easy enough.
We started our journey through Mulunguzi Dam at around 12 pm. We were pretty excited, so we spent a good part of the time taking selfies. The dam is where our fresh water comes from – the best water in Malawi, might I add.
Then we went past the little gate at the end of the dam and turned right. At first, the road was flat and even when we started going uphill, it wasn’t all that steep. In my head, I thought, “well, hiking isn’t all that bad” but boy, was I wrong! It started to get steeper and steeper. Elant told us we would rest on some big rock ahead, and he assured us we weren’t too far. I started to walk slowly and my head hurt! My legs were all shaky and I COULDN’T BREATHE!!! Whenever we asked Elant how long it would take us to get to the mwala (rock), he would say, “almost there!”
I started to question my decision to come hiking. Why didn’t we just end at the dam like everyone does? How come he didn’t tell us it was going to be THIS hard? My heart was beating a thousand times a minute lol, and I just could not go on. I thought I was gonna faint! Even Hope and my niece, Winiwa were feeling exhausted. We all just stopped walking at some point and sat down to rest.
Eventually, we got back up and continued our upward climb, with my niece pulling my arm half the time because I was always falling behind! IT WAS HARD!! 😭 Then we met three boys carrying wood on their head. When we asked them where they were going, they said Sadzi (which is very far!) We asked if they had started their journey the same day, and they said they had. They came early in the morning and were making their way home now (in the scorching sun!). We felt sorry for them, and somehow they gave us some motivation to keep going.
Finally, we got to the mwala we had been talking about [Insert choir singing the Hallelujah Chorus here]. By this time, I was so tired that I just sat down somewhere on the trail to rest. As Hope and Winiwa were busy “wow’ing” the view from a rock they had just climbed, I was downing my bottle of water. After I gained some strength, I climbed the rock too and… OK, you know what, the view was so worth the hike!
The rest of the journey was pretty flat land (this is why I love plateaux!). One sad thing is how clear it’s become because of deforestation. We could see that some trees have been planted, but it’s not that many trees.
After walking for a while, we got to Chagwa Dam.
During the rainy season, Zomba city was at risk of flooding because the dam was on the verge of collapsing. And yes, it would have been a disaster. I hope a lasting solution is found.
We continued our journey, and got to Queen’s View.
A short walk from Queen’s View is Emperor’s View; which, in my opinion, has a better view than Queen’s view. Did I mention we hadn’t had lunch? And we were getting here at around 2 pm? We spent a good part of our time resting and eating here. It was windy, and my jacket came in handy.
My highlight was when we carried a tree trunk and threw it down the mountain, just so we could hear it roll. Honestly, the silliness of it all made my day.
Then Elant casually mentioned a place called Songani Lookout, some distance from where we were. We were sold! He warned us that it was far and it would be best if we turned back. Anyway, guess who walked more miles to go see Songani Lookout? That’s right, WE DID! And IT WAS WORTH IT!
All I can say is, God is so great! Seeing Him in His creation leaves me feeling so small. I really really REALLY enjoyed the day. Of course it reminded me that some struggles we face may seem so painful, but when we get to our destination, we will understand why we had to go through it. All the pain will soon be forgotten. Keep holding on and don’t you dare turn back! Like Elant kept saying, remind yourself often: “almost there!” It will all be worth every painful step.
Our way back was quite enjoyable. For some reason, I didn’t feel as tired as I thought I would. We were arriving back at the dam when it was dark, singing praise songs because, wow, God was with us throughout!
Shoutout to those sticks that made our descent bearable.
Will I go hiking again anytime soon? No! But after my legs have rested, I might reconsider ;). But I definitely recommend hiking. The view is ALWAYS worth it. Don’t forget to pack a lot of water and take it easy. Sometimes kuthamanga sikufika.
P/S: here’s a poster on how you can help reforest and protect Zomba Plateau: